|'Fulfilment' (mixed media on plywood, 116 X 178cm dated 2020), by John Ogbeta.
Expressed with recycled media, Ogbeta's works open as a solo exhibition, Hysteria, frlm 11-25 September 2021 at Signature Beyond Gallery, Ikoyi, Lagos. With this exhibition, the increasing interest of Signature Beyond in innovative shows is being boosted. For example, the gallery's two solo outings for different artists in one space and the same date of exhinition. last June, has been described as 'first of its kind in Nigeria."
For Ogbeta's Hysteria, the gallery, in a preview noted that Ogbeta makes his recycled media art from jute, rope and fabric. On the theme of Hysteria, Signature explained that the artist brings into artistic space the increasing issue of mental health among Nigerians.
Interestingly, Ogbeta, despite working with non-traditional materials, his work still emits fluidity. This much is loud in pieces of figurative in mixed media on plywood such as Tranquility, (107 X 117cm, 2021); The Radical (107 X 117Ccm; 2021); Purple Rose, 116 X 178cm 202 ; Scared As Hell, (on canvas, 120 X 155cm 2021), among others.
Perhaps assembling themes from both ends of the mental health results, Ogbeta, one of Africa's strong mid-career artists, creates pieces of art that take aesthetics and message together. For example, in works such as The Radical and Scared As Hell, the artist stimulates humour in communicating a grievious and tragic message.
As much as art of recycled media is getting more space across commercial and critical appreciation, every artist has the challenge of being unique. For Ogbeta, his art of highly stylised figure, which concentrates more expressive energy on facial features, no doubt, escalates the appreciation of recycled media art of wall pieces.
And in non-facial figurative like The Big Bout (mixed media on plywood, (116 x 178cm 2020), Ogbeta captures a boxing match in its vigour of the two fighters whose action exudes strength as depicted in painterly-like texture.
Again, the artist, just like in most of the exhibits, asserts his control over the. recycled materials, especially in depicting the right expression and mood of the human subjects.
"Once a collector said to me: 'Hey, I am tired of seeing too many heads and faces in exhibitions.' And I replied: “wait till you see John Ogbeta’s rendition of heads,” Ato Arinze, Sculptor/Portter wrote.
Excerpt from Arinze: "His use of bold lines, bright colours, found objects as collage and textures to depict the facial expressions, is a way to remind us that every face tells a story. Hidden in these stories are various kinds of emotions, which are results of how we respond to the challenges of life.
"Our identities as humans are boldly represented in most of the featured works in this exhibition, which I suppose is John Ogbeta’s third Solo exhibition. Our identity is shaped by how we respond to events in our environment. In Ogbeta’s works, you can agree with me that he was able to do justice to the paintings by playing with our feelings. The facial expressions on the faces, the interplay of colours with imposing textures formed with objects attest to the full understanding of his craft. As the theme of the exhibition goes – ‘‘Hysteria’’ one can deduce that the artist has a good knowledge of what art is; the major role of the artist in society which is to use his paintings to better the world, to create feelings and to remind us of the need to be mindful of our emotions plus our mental health.
'Hysteria' brings to mind the recent campaign on mental health, which has gained so much mileage; no thanks to bad governance across the globe, the pandemic and the lackadaisical attitude of the po- litical class, most especially in our dear country, Nigeria... if we still have a country. The titles suggest all the actions that originate from the afer effects of mental challenges which are caused by the socio-economic and socio-political imbalance in our country today. Such titles as “Red Eye” is an expression of the rise in domestic violence, “The Big Bout” and “Scared as Hell” reminds us of Police brutality and insecurity.
John Ogbeta has evolved from the year of my Youth Service days in 1991 at the Federal Polytechnic Auchi, Edo state. I met him as a student in my Sculpture class then in Lagos as an active member of ArtZero Group when he participated in all our signature exhibitions “ART ON THE MAINLAND.”. Artzero as a platform was instrumental to the success of lots of artists in his generation. Every artist has a story to tell from their early struggling years to their mid-career toughest period, to when they can now relax as established artists. John Ogbeta has paid his dues and his life experience is common with the average Nigerian citizens as highly reflected on all the works in this exhibition.
Having a style and being original is a big challenge to lots of artists in this clime, the great art- ist of blessed memory Ben Osaghae, who was Ogbeta’s lecturer once wrote an article that was published in Position Magazine many years ago on the subject of lack of creativity and originality amongst artists in Nigeria. That paper was titled “Creative Drought in Nigerian Arts”, there is no gain saying that Ogbeta with some other artists who are influenced by Ben Osaghae’s ide- ology and approach to art practice that changed the narrative, as evident in the featured works.
As we all say a big congratulations to John Ogbeta for his resilient Nigerian spirit and for keeping up the spirit of creativity in his life, I humbly welcome you all to enjoy the exhibition."
Born September 25, 1971 in Lagos. Ogbeta studied at Auchi Polytechnic and majored in painting (1992/98).